July 11, 2013
“I’m a Christian. But Muslims are misunderstood. Intentionally misunderstood. We should all be more like them. They make sense, especially with their children. There is no other group like the Black Muslims, who put so much effort into teaching children the right things,…they don’t smoke, they don’t drink or overindulge in alcohol, they protect their women, they command respect.” Bill Cosby
I’ve come to the conclusion in recent months that we who know and walk with Jesus Christ should stop using the word “Christian”. It only occurs twice in the Bible – once spoken by the unrighteous King Agrippa (Acts 26:28), the other time by the apostle Peter (I Peter 4:16). “Christians” occurs once in Acts 11:26. It is a word that is in my opinion not useful anymore in Western culture.
Before I say more, let me give you a couple more quotes from famous people who identify themselves as Christians.
“I am a Christian. So I have a deep faith. So I draw from the Christian faith…I believe that there are many paths to the same place….” Barack Obama
“I think it (Jane’s “Christian” faith) has a spiritual element. I think feminism is about the spirit. I think feminism is another way of teaching what Jesus taught, that we are all full human beings with the right to have our humanity seen and respected. This is what feminism is, and that’s what Jesus taught.” Jane Fonda
People in North America, who identify themselves as Christians do so for a variety of reasons. Or perhaps I should say they believe they are Christians for a variety of reasons.
Some say or believe they are Christians because they are not atheists, or muslims or Buddhists, etc. So being a Christian is not as much about what they are as it is about what they are not.
Some say or believe they are Christians because they were born and raised in America; they are patriotic; they perhaps were baptized as an infant in a “Christian” church, whether Catholic or Protestant; they might even attend a church here and there – especially around Christmas and on Easter; and they believe in the golden rule, which comes from the Bible (though many of them could not tell you where in the Bible).
Some say or believe they are Christians because they admire Jesus, though they also equally admire Ghandi, Mohammed, Buddha (whoever he was), and Oprah.
Surely one of the reasons there is such mass confusion in America (and anywhere else in the world where they have a steady diet of American media) these days over what a Christian is is because of the increasingly conflicting and contradicting uses of the word. Not to mention the conflicting and contradictory lifestyles and beliefs of those who use it and claim to be it.
For those in our nation who might be considering exploring the Christian faith, and who might be drawn to Jesus Christ, and who are plugged into mainstream media in all its forms at the same time – – who knows what kind of bewilderment they are very likely experiencing as I write.
Therefore I suggest that we who have been apprehended by Jesus Christ – – who know without a doubt He is the Son of God, He is God, and He is the only way to God – – all truths which He taught repeatedly in His earthly ministry – – I suggest that we shelve this word, and only use the word “disciple”.
Did you know that unlike “Christian” and “Christians”, the word “disciple” occurs 29 x’s in the New Testament, and the word “disciples” occurs 240 x’s? Did you know that right before Jesus Christ ascended to sit at the right hand of His Father in heaven, He commanded His disciples to “Go therefore and make disciples in all the nations….”? Not Christians, but disciples. If you closely study Jesus’s life and ministry while on earth, you will find that He often thinned the crowds and multitudes following Him in the pursuit of true disciples.
Jesus was after disciples, because as one wise leader has said, “Only disciples change the world.” So if this is true, how can we become true disciples of Jesus Christ? Well many books have been written on this subject, but let me suggest a few things from His own words.
First of all, Jesus said in no uncertain terms that any attachment to our family or ourselves that would get in the way of following Him must be broken and departed from. Listen to His own words in Luke 14:26,27 – spoken to huge crowds of would be followers, “If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple. Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.” Loving and following Jesus requires death to any other competing relationship or influence in our lives.
Second, Jesus said that there is no greater or more certain evidence that we have indeed begun to follow Him and be His disciple than that of learning to love (as He loved) our brothers and sisters in Christ – – the spiritual family that He has called us to be a part of. Listen again to His words in John 13:34,35, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” This was spoken to His 12 disciples, who somewhat loved Jesus, but were merely tolerating one another. Time and time again in His short years with them, He had to make it clear that following Him meant forgiving, serving and loving those around them who also were seeking to follow Him.
Third, Jesus said that any true disciple of His would eventually experience the same kind of rejection and persecution that He did – – and they needed to know and prepare for that up front. If your primary desire is to be popular, well liked, have many friends, and be well thought of by everyone, following Jesus will probably not get you there. “A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a slave above his master. It is enough for the disciple that he become like his teacher, and the slave like his master. If they have called the head of the house Beelzebul (ruler of demons or Satan), how much more will they malign the members of his household!” Matthew 10:24,25 Now there are many wonderful joys that come from following Jesus. But you must die to the above mentioned “primary desire” to experience those joys.
I realize this isn’t a popular message these days. But I would rather have 10 disciples at my side on any given day than a hundred “Christians” because disciples are selfless men and women. Disciples have been broken of the pride, selfish ambition, hatred, duplicity, envy, covetousness, lusts, and all the other things that still drive and distract “Christians”. Disciples will go anywhere, love and serve any person, suffer any loss, and endure any tribulation to please their Master. Only disciples change the world.
God do what you have to do to each of us to deliver us from merely being a Christian in these exciting last days before you return.